Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Gender neutral first names

Yanked from a baby name site, some gender-neutral names for when I need them.

Icons DROP-IN Cancelled again this week


Because this bug has been resistant to the first two antibiotics and I am about to start the third. I am in no better shape than I was last week, or the Saturday before that. Sorry.

In other news, Steve Kenson confirms that you don't need Shrinking or Growth to change into an animal of that size. That is, if you decide to change into a queen bee with your Transformation (Animals) you have, like, Flight 3 and maybe Super-senses 2, and possibly an Affliction. You don't need enough Transformation to get the appropriate shrinking for that small (what is that, Shrinking 8 or 9?). If you wanted to be a giant housefly, sure, you'd need Growth, or a teacup elephant, you'd need Shrinking, but to be a regular housefly, Transformation 3 will do. A regular elephant, you probably want Transformation 7 because an elephant is strong...but you don't need it for the growth part of it.

So as of Judas Contract (the original comics), Gar Logan probably looked something like:

Garfield Logan (Changeling/Beast Boy)
SpecialtiesNone, really.
  • Transformation (Animals) 7
    • Extra: Instant (no page prep needed)
    • Extra: Growth (because sometimes he becomes a giant snake)
    • Limit: Tell (always green)
  • Heir to Steve Dayton & Rita Farr fortunes
  • Emotionally needy but only knows how to relate by being quippy...doesn't feel he's worthy
  • Connections and enemies from Doom Patrol days

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ICONS Drop-In CANCELLED this week


I'm sorry, folks, but I have a sinus infection. I've started on antibiotics but it's not enough yet.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A quick Swamp Thing


Here's a quick Swamp Thing that might be useful to people. Though Plant Control seemed like an obvious power, I made the power Magic with the Extra No Performance, and plants are the theme. This is Swampy after Moore is done with him, so he's grotesquely powerful.

Swamp Thing
Specialties Occult (+1)
Plant Control (Magic)10
 Extra: No Performance 
 Known Spell: Knows things through the Green (Detection, Magic)10
Alternate form: Plant body (fluid form) 5
Plant Elemental (Responsible to the Green)
He's a Plant
Relationship with Abby and Tefe

Various powers, like teleportation, are stunts off the Magic.

Yes, there will be an ICONS Drop-In on Wednesday


In honour of Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson, I will see if I can get something swampy in the adventure. Or, I suppose, something Wolverine-y.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Manslaughter Redux


Years and years ago, in a Champions campaign, I had an homage to the Joker, and what I intended was that he had the pweor to come back from the dead, but that every time he did so, he would have a new power. Kill him once, one new power. Kill him again, another new power. And so on... To keep him from gaining new powers, the players would have to keep him alive.

(Of course, that wouldn't stop him from killing himself to get new powers...)

I don't recall that I ever had him come back...I think that campaign folded before it happened. (And the usual reason for my campaigns folding is that I had spotted a logical inconsistency in something I had just tossed off, and I had no answer. So I would put off doing another adventure because I just had to figure it out, dammit, and the campaign would wither as we went on to something else. See "Alderson Disk Campaign.")

But I thought of him this weekend when I was thinking of recurring villains in superhero campaigns. I don't have the notes from that campaign any more (there was a purge: I don't have the notes from much anything any more), but I figured I could re-create him in ICONS.

I was just going to do the "extra power per death" thing by GM fiat, but I'm also big on the "provide a game mechanical way that's legal" thing for GM characters as well as for player characters. So I thought about it and there's one attached. You don't have to use it, of course.

Specialties: Athletics (+1), Technology Expert (+2)
Affliction (Lethal)6
Extras: Side Effect Magic, no roll5
Limits: No control over new power5
We're all crazy, but I know it
Nice to henchmen
Resilient and adaptable

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Len Wein

I'm seeing as-yet-unconfirmed reports that Len Wein has passed away.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Why supers travel in groups


This was inspired by a comment in this week's Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Suppose that superpowers are somehow psychic, and the higher the concentration of superpowered people, the more powerful they are. So the Hulk is strong when he's all alone in New Mexico, but he's really strong—maybe the strongest one there is!—when he's near three other supers. It doesn't matter if they're good guys or bad guys; Superman is strength 8 when he's fighting Lex Luthor, but he's strength 10 when he faces four Kryptonians. (They, on the other hand, are already at maximum strength when he shows up, so they don't get any stronger.)

So, you know, supers would travel in groups.

I'm not sure how you'd model that mechanically in ICONS or M&M But it'd be easy in MHR.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Why are superheroes reactive, not proactive?


For a large part of their history, superheroes have been reactive rather than proactive. That is, something bad happens and they react to it. (There are exceptions—early Superman stories where he's fighting against social ills might be an example, but stuff like the Authority is definitely an exception.) As a person creating adventures, that cuts out a huge swath of possibilities that you get in other games. Hyperman doesn't set out to become President, or if he does, it's in his secret identity. (Uh, there's an adventure right there: a certain politician is running for election for a powerful office; the PCs have evidence that he is secretly a superhuman. What do they do? To make it more interesting, assume that the politician/super has powers that will make it possible for him to destroy the possibility of replacement, such as mind control. Go.) This is also at the root of things like Reed Richards Is Useless, where the wonderful toys he creates don't have an effect on society.

Comic books as an entertainment and story-telling medium have a couple of reasons for this, some of which I've seen before. You can't make the world too different, because you want to feed into the central conceit, that this is a power fantasy for our world. Stories where X happens and the hero fixes X and sets things right have a long, long history in all genres (you can consider Gilgamesh as an example) and it's essentially the structure followed in Westerns and adventure fiction.

I'm not well read on this topic, but the reason that I haven't seen elsewhere is this: having the characters act proactively for a goal makes them less trustworthy because they have great powers.

I don't know if that follows for you, but here: in fiction, our hero is always attacked in his weak spot. He is always metaphorically outgunned. Hamlet can do many things (we're told he's an excellent swordsman, for instance) but what he can't do is make up his mind about a philosophical problem, and that's exactly what he gets: Is the information from the ghost of his father trustworthy? I have no doubt that if he believed the ghost fully, he'd kill Claudius, end of play. But he needs confirmation, and puts into effect the plans that eventually kill people.

There are other stories, but the idea of struggling, of trying and failing, is usually in all of them. It's hard to struggle if you can obliterate the enemy with your eye-beams.

But there's also this, and maybe this is my Liberal White Guy Guilt and Bias talking: The greater the power that a character has, the more you have to make them dependable and trustworthy if you want them as heroes. And I wonder if reacting to the situation isn't a way of confirming to the audience that this character will only pick up the weapon when it is necessary. The Western hero does not use his superior gunplay to take over the town, and the President does not use his ability as Commander-In-Chief to roll over the small nation. In the same way, the guy who can lift a tank and bounce missiles off his chest does not take over Area 51, just to see what's there.

Am I saying that you can't do a story about a proactive guy who happens to have super powers? No, I'm not saying that at all. But I am saying that you have to be as careful about reader empathy as you can. It's like, uh, the screenwriting book, Save The Cat: you can get a lot of audience buy-in by having the hero do something good in the beginning, and not using your powers for personal gain is perceived as good.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

ICONS Drop-In (Session 5): The Bikini Machine


Spectre and Gold Tiger face off against the Young Anarchists!

More technical troubles. I'm going to write an audio troubleshooting checklist (because the Roll20 troubleshooting page is a little shy on checklists). If that doesn't help, I might switch to Skype or Discord or something similar. (Right now, my tendency is to Discord: I have the client app already.)

At about one in the morning, Gold Tiger and Spectre are out searching for tau radiation, using the portable detector (about the size of a full duffle bag). Gold Tiger spots a source in Through The Keyhole, a strip club on the outskirts of town. The strip club is a two-storey building, with the club area being two stories tall, and the outside walls having a closed-in mezzanine for the manager's office and so forth. Gold Tiger gets there first. He hears a shout in anger, a gunshot, a science-fiction-weapon sound. He flies in a window on the second floor, flies down the stairwell, and sees a bouncer-looking individual unconscious on the stage, armed guards near a gentleman (whom he recognized as "Socks" Maroney, the last major Irish gangster in town), and a gold woman in a trench coat whose fedora has been knocked off. She is floating to the fire exit (but in an upright pose, so she looks like she's walking). Gold Tiger checks in the dressing room, and yes, the gold woman just stole all the money from the strippers.

Gold Tiger exits, following the woman. Gold Tiger decides to follow her home, because she said, "I must get the specie to the master." (This is an incorrect use of the word "specie" which refers to the tangible asset instead of the cash value of the asset, or sometimes coins instead of bills. My mistake.)

Gold Tiger convinces her that he was sent by the Master. She interfaces with his computer systems, decides he must be from the Master, and he grabs her ankle while she flies home. (This is good, because she has a top speed of around 600 mph and he has a slightly lower top speed: Flight 6 versus Flight 5.)

They land between some trees in the backyard of a small postwar house, one that backs onto a park. (Park not named.) Golden Tiger sends the location to Spectre and waits while the Femmebot goes in. A young guy, maybe 20s, in chinos and a polo shirt, greets her and takes the money. He says he doesn't require pleasure and she should continue cleaning. Spectre will be there in a couple of minutes.

Gold Tiger goes in to talk to the guy. This is Nathan. Nathan inherited the house from his parents. He's an unemployed welder, and he was applying for work at SIT when he "found" the two halves of the Femmebot. (Gold Tiger's other knowledge leads him to think that Nathan was on campus at the same time that the Centurions fought off a set of golden women who stole computer parts. One was torn in two, according to reports, but the pieces were never found.) The top half called him "Master," so Nathan took the two halves home. Then he called this kid who sometimes fixes cell phones and computers (George Turner...a chubby fourteen year old). Normal welding wouldn't put the two halves together, but the kid was able to get some electric welding gadget that would do it. (No, not normal electric welding. Something special.)

Anyway, Nathan's been using the femmebot, which he calls "Liza," to commit petty thefts of strip clubs. (Why strip clubs? Because not a lot of places carry cash these days, but strippers do: they get their tips in cash.) George has been coming over to fix the Femmebot on a regular basis. Because there are multiple people, Liza comes in and calls Nathan "Dr. Warp" and says they'll need more coffee if there are guests. Nathan hates her coffee but can't seem to reprogram her to make coffee that isn't European espresso.

Gold Tiger offers Nathan a job, needs the money back but he'll just give Nathan the equivalent amount of cash. The whole haul amounts to $568.00, so Gold Tiger gives him $600.00. Spectre has been listening but comes in visibly to talk to Nathan while Gold Tiger flies the money back to the strip club. On his way out this time, Gold Tiger gives a cheerful, "Hi, Socks!" (I'm sure this will have no consequences at all.)

When he comes back, a hole opens up in the back yard and it contains:

  • George Turner, in a green and yellow costume, with some gadgetry
  • A disaffected Goth girl in the de rigeur corset, fishnets and Uggs
  • A humanoid about six feet tall and made of dirt

Both Gold Tiger and Spectre remember the goth girl from the news: she essentially pulled a Carrie last spring, locking people in the gym during prom and having her bats attack people (she can shape and control darkness; presumably she can leech light out of Spectre's constructs). Anyway, she's been missing and on the run from the cops since then.

Spectre makes a bunch of Liza illusions, but George summons out the real Eliza. Gold Tiger figures out how George is controlling Liza (he's added programming so she obeys anyone who talks while sending a certain radio signal), so he jams the radio signal. Lily the Goth girl climbs out of the hole...

...and a rocket from Gold Tiger knocks her right out.

A comment from George indicates that he (a) knows where Liza came from and (b) needs her to get past the security on that base.

Spectre imprisons the dirt George works on getting Liza to their side. He succeeds so Gold Tiger is occupied with Liza. Neither of them can hurt one another (she might be made of the same alloy as his suit), so Gold Tiger consoles himself that he's keeping her busy. Meanwhile, Spectre gets George in the cage...but the cage is kind of large, so the dirt guy escapes and George tries to shoot a blob of expanding foam to imprison Spectre. A marginal success doesn't do nearly enough, and while his next shot gets Spectre solidly, he's forgotten that if he can shoot out of the cage, Gold Tiger can shoot in, so George goes down.

Dirt guy (Landslide) has gotten out of the cage (fluid form has some uses) and tries to attack Spectre; Spectre whacks him with the cage. So Landslide, not the brightest light in the yard, turns around to attack the cage.

The heroes have won!

The tunnel that the Young Anarchists used goes straight to George's house. His parents didn't know he was gone nor that he was experimenting with super-villainy. ("We thought the girl was a sign that he was getting, whatcha call it, socialized!")

World setting details just tossed off:

  • Strip clubs close at 1:00 am in Strange City
  • "Socks" Maroney is the last remaining significant Irish mobster, and he travels with bodyguards
  • George Turner of the Young Anarchists goes to Jack Parsons High School
  • There is a connection between Dr. Warp and Dr. Jelinek.